'Herald-Tribune' Couches Buyout Announcement Inside Industrywide Story

By: Joe Strupp Perhaps seeking to ease the blow of an announced buyout plan that could affect 58 newsroom staffers, the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune on Thursday reported its effort to cut costs inside a story detailing cutbacks and budget problems at numerous other papers.

The story opens by stating, "On the Gulf Coast and across Florida, newspapers are cutting staff and shrinking what they deliver to readers. Already challenged by the growth of the Internet, the real estate slump is hitting Florida newspapers hard, cutting revenues by millions of dollars across the state."

Not until several paragraphs in does the story mention the local impact, stating "The Herald-Tribune Media Group announced this week that it is offering a voluntary buyout for its newsroom employees age 50 or older. The newspaper has already cut 21 positions from the newsroom, eliminated daily TV listings and the Sunday business section, and reduced the size of its sports and TV sections."

The story does not even note that 58 Herald-Tribune newsroom employees are eligible for the buyout until well into the story.

But the report gladly cites other papers, from nearby St. Petersburg to San Jose, Calif., that have taken similar hits. "The Bradenton Herald, owned by Sacramento, Calif.-based McClatchy Co., has reduced stock listings, limited hiring and trimmed the width of the newspaper," the story said. "The locally owned Observer Group, publisher of the Observer weeklies in Sarasota and Manatee counties and the Gulf Coast Business Review, suspended publication of its Bradenton Observer and cut some positions."

The Herald-Tribune then goes on to note job cuts and cutbacks at The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and the Orlando Sentinel, even reaching to California to remind readers of such reductions at the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Newspapers are cagey about acknowledging how much they have cut, especially in newsrooms, concerned that the cuts will alienate readers," the story then states, ironically. "At the Herald-Tribune, editors have been told that 21 newsroom positions have been cut this year, but executives would not confirm that number."

In a related story, the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press-Democrat announced plans to cut 35 of its 447 jobs companywide, representing about 8% of its workforce, according to a story on its Web site. The story cited a recent 3.4% circulation drop and a reduction in revenue from $74 million in 2005 to $70 million last year.


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